When President Muhammadu Buhari famously said on May 29, 2015 that he belonged to everybody and to nobody, the public went into a frenzy of interpretations of his philosophical words. Clearly, what he said was a code. It meant something that we did not understand and which he did not bother to explain. How could he, our Sai Baba, who belonged to us during the campaign and to whom we belonged during the voting process, now come out and say publicly that he belonged to nobody after winning the elections? Something was quite wrong from the onset. We didn’t get it. Did these coded words apply to his family, his political associates, to the known sponsors of his victory, to the alliance of political parties that came together to ensure his victory or to the public? It was anybody’s guess. Whether he has acted on or is acting on those words is also anyone’s guess. As with many other important issues haunting our lives, some Nigerians made a sick joke of the President’s declaration and everyone moved on.
Mr. Buhari also said he was going to allow all the other arms of government do their jobs while he would focus on his. He was neither going to interfere nor influence decision-making either at the Senate or the House of Representatives. He acted on these words. He let the election process of the Senate leadership pervert itself to produce the current leadership to the indignation of Nigerians. Nigerians expected some reaction, some political maneuver to undo this aberration, but this never came. Mr. Buhari let it ride. And what we have been seeing on the television are joint prayer sessions with the leadership of the Senate, smiles, hand-holding, hilarious laughter and visiting between the President and the Senate leadership here in Nigeria and in London. Further, the President appears to be indifferent to the press exposures of the reprehensible actions of some members of his kitchen cabinet with links to the Senate leadership. It appears that some sinister pre-prepared script is being acted out by the combo of the Senate and the Executive. It is difficult to think that what we are seeing are spontaneous dramas. What we have been seeing in the past two years is antithetical to the persona of whom we thought we voted for.
Our President said, “I belong to everybody and to nobody!” This is not original. It belongs in Jean Jacques Rousseau’s treatise on the Social Contract. Mr. Buhari must have read it severally after he lost the previous elections. And he acted out some of the clauses of the Social Contract in order for him to win the 2015 elections. Hear Rousseau: “…as men cannot engender new forces, but only unite and direct existing ones, they have no other means of preserving themselves than the formation, by aggregation, of a sum of forces great enough to overcome the resistance. These they have to bring into play by means of a single motive power, and cause to act in concert. This sum of forces can arise only where several persons come together…….. each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody; and as there is no associate over whom he does not acquire the same right as he yields others over himself, he gains an equivalent for everything he loses, and an increase of force for the preservation of what he has.” Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong in forming alliances to overcome an obstacle or to reach an objective. What can be very wrong is if the objective is personal at the expense of a trusting nation rather than for common good or if the alliance is with people of questionable character.
Our President did not need to tell us that he belonged to everybody and to nobody. It was not necessary. We already have a binding social contract with him in our constitution. So he could not possibly be referring to the Nigerian public that voted him in. Who then was he talking to? To whom was he quoting Jean Jacques Rousseau in his public discourse? Mr. President needs to explain this to Nigerians.
That Mr. Buhari formed an alliance with other political parties to oust Goodluck Jonathan and his PDP is a fact in public domain. But we do not know what other alliances the President engaged in. That Mr. Buhari seems to have parted ways with other political parties has been widely reported. What about these other hidden alliances? Recent belligerence of the Senate leadership (despite the exposures of their moral baggage) towards the person of Mr. Buhari and his seeming helplessness tell a big story. It is terrifying that this belligerence is not based on any principles but on trivia that border on demand for respect from the President. Rousseau says “there is no associate over whom he does not acquire the same right as he yields others over himself….” In other words, the Senate leadership demands respect as per the conditions of an agreement between equals. What is the nature of this contract that seems to render our president a ghost of the supposed man of steel we voted for? This has nothing to do with our Constitution or with separation of powers; our Constitution does not allow for trivialities.
The Social Contract between the President and the people of Nigeria far outweighs any other contract that the President might have engaged in, in the course of seeking the presidency. The people take precedence over alliances. Mr. Buhari has to boldly move out of unholy alliances that tie his hands while the people are still solidly behind him. What History will say of you as the President is much more than winning a second term.
The president should come out and tell us that “He belongs to everyone – to us, the people” and leave the VIP nobodies to lick their wounds.
I hope President Muhammadu Buhari reads this.
Abimbola Lagunju is an author. You can reach him at
firstname.lastname@example.org and read his articles at
Afro Point of View .